Aaron Peirsol: why swimming's just like golf

Sensemaking / Aaron Peirsol: why swimming's just like golf

Olympic record holder makes the case for sustainability in a "sport that uses a lot of water"

By Amy Kao / 27 Jul 2012

Aaron Peirsol is a three-time Olympian and seven-time Olympic medalist. He has held several world records, as an individual backstroke swimmer, and as part of the US relay team. In February 2011, Peirsol announced his retirement, saying, "I ended up doing everything I set out to do".

"A swimming pool is like a golf course: it's a sport that uses a lot of water. I'd like people to begin to take responsibility for this. We had one of the worst droughts in Texas last year. We had rain this spring, but we're still in a drought. I look at that and it's hard.

But Olympic pools are always statements. They're unique and, in a way, works of art. The biggest trick is to make sure you keep using an Olympic pool after the Games. Hopefully the London Aquatics Centre will become a staple of the swimming community.

One thing that is great about every single Olympics is that it bridges cultures. During those few weeks, for the most part, politics is put aside between countries and athletes that might be competing against each other. There's something very visceral and innocent about the Games itself: it transcends a lot of what may be going on outside.

The biggest thing for people to get out of the Games is to listen to the stories, and understand the adversity that some of the athletes had to go through. For athletes, it's not necessarily about any gold medal: it's about doing something they love, and choosing a lifestyle.

When you look back on your career, the Olympics is a very small thing, it's important to understand it as a process. Being there is the culmination of decades or more of work. And that's the magic of it." 

Aaron Peirsol was in conversation with Amy Kao

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